Rarely Is a Woman Wicked

We have already presented the argument that there are possibly different pathways for the development of antisocial behavior and personality disorder in men and women, but what are some of the other differences that distinguish male and female antisocials? For one, the rate of antisocial personality disorder is usually considered to be higher for men than women. In the community at large, the DSM-IV indicates that about 3% of men and 1% of women warrant such a diagnosis with rates of antisocial personality disorder increasing and the rate for women increasing faster than for men. The rates for conduct disorder (CD) in adolescents are considerably higher. One large epidemiologic study of 15-year-olds found that 7.5% to 9.5% of girls and 8.6% to 12.2% of boys met criteria for CD (Fergusson, Horwood, & Lynskey, 1993).

Despite the high prevalence rate of females with CD and antisocial personality disorder, few empirical studies include females in their samples. A few notable exceptions include Mulder, Wells, Joyce, and Bushnell (1994), who compared the characteristics of an equal number of women and men who met criteria for antisocial personality disorder in a community sample. Both groups report parental disharmony during childhood, although this finding was significant only for women. In terms of antisocial symptoms, women most commonly reported relationship problems, job troubles, and violence. In contrast, men reported job troubles, violence, and traffic offenses. Other studies have followed antisocial girls through adulthood and have found that they have higher mortality rates, are at 10- to 40-fold increased risk for criminality, have higher rates of other psychiatric disorders, and are in dysfunctional and often violent interpersonal relationships (Pajer, 1998).

There have also been arguments that males and females express their antisocial behavior in different ways. Historically, women who behaved in antisocial ways were thought to be somehow sicker than their male counterpoints. An old Italian proverb illustrates this nicely: "Rarely is a woman wicked, but when she is she surpasses the man" (Lombroso & Ferrero, 1916, p. 147). Somehow, because it was more rare than male antisocial behavior, it must be more aberrant and severe. Alternately, rather than sicker, female deviance was often viewed as largely sexual misbehavior rather than criminal, and the woman was to be treated and cured rather than punished. Along these lines, it was widely thought that when women committed crimes, it was not out of their own impetus, but rather to aid a male partner, an idea still with us today. More recent models have drawn the distinction that males exhibit more verbal and physical aggression from threatening to hitting while females are more likely to exhibit what has been termed "relational aggression" such as spreading malicious rumors and gossip and rejecting other females from their social groups (Crick, 1995; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995). However, in refute of these supposed differences is the finding that if violent crimes against family members or same-sex peers are analyzed separately, the gap closes considerably (Balthazar & Cook, 1984). Similarly, although girls commit fewer overall antisocial behaviors, the rank ordering of the most common ones are almost identical to those committed by boys (Robins, 1986).

constraints and to spend on the joys of the present rather than save prudently for the future. Finally, whereas the disorder lacks a conscience (see criterion 7) and rationalizes exploitation of others, the style can be aggressively or impulsively self-serving, but within moral, social, and legal boundaries.

Once again, Toni falls more toward the pathological end of the applicable contrasts between style and disorder. Far beyond seeing herself as simply more resistant to risk, Toni admits to abusing heroin and sharing needles and asserts that she is not afraid of HIV Far beyond wanting to remain free of the constraints that work might put on her time, she has never held a job for more than three weeks, instead preferring to make a lot of money in very little time. If that requires her to do something illegal, that's okay. Finally, far beyond being aggressively self-serving within moral, social, and legal boundaries, Toni shows herself to be devoid of conscience. She not only admits that she does not feel guilty for what she has done, but also rationalizes away her guiltlessness by arguing, "No one ever felt guilty for what they did to me," as if moral principles should be extended and suspended based on the actions of others, rather than held consistently according to one's own internal values.

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Break Free From Passive Aggression

Break Free From Passive Aggression

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